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Resident dies in COVID-19 outbreak at Oak Park Place


One resident of Janesville nursing facility Oak Park Place has died from COVID-19, and four more residents from the nursing home have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the Rock County Health Department.

In a daily update, the health department acknowledged Monday that one person at Oak Park Place at 700 Myrtle Way has died from “complications” from COVID-19, and four others have tested positive for the virus.

Three of those residents have been hospitalized, and the fourth is being kept in isolation in a separate wing of the nursing facility, the county said.

The county’s announcement came Monday afternoon after Oak Park Place acknowledged three of its residents and one staff member had tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement Oak Park Place emailed to The Gazette.

Oak Park Place’s statement did not disclose that a fourth resident had tested positive or that one resident had died from COVID-19.

One member of the Oak Park Place staff with COVID-19 is self-isolating at home, the county and Oak Park Place said.

The Rock County Public Health Department last week announced one resident and one staff member at a local care facility had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Until Monday, the health department had repeatedly declined to name the nursing facility, saying in emails to The Gazette that the facility’s medical director didn’t want the information released to avoid “undue stress” on other residents at the facility.

On Monday, the health department said Oak Park Place “has given us clearance to identify their facility as the one referenced in last week’s update.”

Countywide, there were 34 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two deaths as of Monday, the health department said. There have been at least 781 negative tests.

Oak Park Place is an assisted living and nursing facility with about 114 beds and a current resident population of about 70, Rock County Health Department spokeswoman Kelsey Cordova said in an email Monday afternoon.

An Oak Park Place official said Monday she would review questions from The Gazette but declined to be interviewed or asked questions over the phone.

Monday evening, Oak Park Place sent The Gazette an email declining to answer further questions about the outbreak.

In the statement, an Oak Park Place official wrote that “the health and safety of our residents and staff is Oak Park Place’s top priority.”

The facility said it has “implemented and adhered” to “all recommended COVID-19 protocols, guidelines and best practices from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention).”

The official said Oak Park Place has contracted with an infection control specialist “to help us prepare for and respond to these circumstances.”

The Oak Park Place statement and the county didn’t indicate when the sickened resident died, but it apparently was one of the residents who had been hospitalized. Of Rock County’s two reported COVID-19 deaths, the Oak Park Place resident apparently was the second to die from the disease.

The county said it’s working with Oak Park Place to “contain” the virus outbreak at the nursing home and to “mitigate its spread.”

“We have been able to locate additional personal protective equipment for them, with the support of local emergency operating centers,” the county said in its briefing.

The health department said it has been in contact “with anyone who may have been in close contact with a positive individual at that (Oak Park Place) facility.”

Oak Park Place in its statement said staff “acted swiftly and appropriately to seek medical care for our residents when symptoms first became evident,” although the facility has not disclosed how the outbreak is thought to have started or when people at the facility started to show symptoms.

“Our staff member self-reported symptoms and was instructed to self-quarantine,” the statement read.

Oak Park Place is “complying fully with our responsibility to inform public health officials” of COVID-19 infection at its Janesville facility, according to the statement.

“The facility kept lines of communication open with families, residents, and staff during these challenging times. We are updating them with accurate information as quickly as we can,” the statement adds.

“This is a difficult time for everyone, and Oak Park Place will continue to put the health and safety of our residents and staff first,” the statement reads. “The COVID-19 pandemic requires a community response, and Oak Park Place is committed to continuing to work with public health experts, DHS, and medical professionals to keep our residents and our staff safe and healthy.

Signs for Tuesday’s election sit inside the former Sears store at the Janesville Mall on Monday. The store will be used as a polling place for the first time Tuesday.

Officials kept prepared amid election uncertainty

Clerks across Rock County and the state were waiting and wondering Monday evening whether they would be holding an election today or not.

Then the word came: The state Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Tony Evers’ order to postpone elections earlier in the day was not valid.

Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson was wondering at 4:45 p.m. whether she would have to stay up all night to get an answer. She had one 45 minutes later.

“We’re preparing as if we’re going to have an election because if we do, we need to be ready,” Tollefson had said earlier.

Tollefson and Janesville Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek said poll workers were told to be ready for a phone call telling them they are needed—or not.

“The position I’m taking right now is that I’m preparing to have an election tomorrow because if we don’t have one, that’s fine. We’re prepared if we do,” Godek said before the court’s ruling was announced.

He said after the rulings came down that he didn’t know if election results would be known after polls close today. Godek said he was waiting for the Wisconsin Elections Commission to provide guidance.

Tollefson said it’s impossible to say how many voters might show up at the polls today.

About 29,000 absentee ballots have been issued in Rock County, which is about the same as the total number who voted in the spring elections in 2012, Tollefson said.

But in 2016, when there were presidential primaries, as there are this year, more than 53,000 voted.

Tollefson said she doesn’t think 53,000 will vote in this election.

“I’m hoping very few people (vote in person) because so many people voted absentee by mail,” she said. “We’re trying to keep the (coronavirus) spread down. I want everybody to exercise their right to vote, but I’m really glad a large group of people did it absentee.”

Tollefson said the county has enough poll workers because many volunteered when officials asked for help after the regular poll workers—many of them elderly—decided to sit this one out.

And if needed, Tollefson can request help from the National Guard, she said.

Tollefson said she was worried about rain today. Lines will be extra long because of the 6-foot distancing requirement, which could mean people will be standing in the rain, depending on the polling venue.

For those voting today, Godek has asked that they wear masks or cloths over their faces and bring their own black or blue ballpoint pens if they can.

Obituaries and death notices for April 7, 2020

David A. Anderson

Rose “Grandma Rose” J. Cardinale

Rickey J. Coggins

Barbara A. Feltz

Andrew W. Koeppen

Julie Lynn (Perrizo) Mahnke

Penny Melan

Donald Eugene Olsen

James Anthony Omelian

Carol A. Ott

Douglas A. Rabbach

Wallace “Wally” Robeson

Jarod J. Stewart